Dear Mr President
This was my entry for a competition run by the Alpine Fellowship.
The brief was to produce a piece on the subject of 'Identity'.
I chose to focus on how a person's loss of identity might be perceived by his young grandson.
I grudgingly give credit to Donald Trump for his hysterical announcement of an 'invasion' on the southern border of the USA, referenced at the beginning of the story.
Dear Mr. President.
I think my Grandpa is an alien.
My parents don't believe me. Nor does my Nanna, but I've heard you talking on TV about an alien invasion so I was hoping you could help.
It all started on my ninth birthday. Grandpa bought a telescope and took me out to the mountains to watch a meteor shower.
He was so clever back then and knew the names of all the stars and stuff.
Well, he was taking his turn looking at the meteors when there was a really bright flash. He was blinking and rubbing his eye. I think that's when the alien got into him.
Anyhow, the next week we were at the park and, when it was time to go home Grandpa set off the wrong direction. We drove for ages. I asked him where he was going and he just looked at me funny and said,
“Home, of course.”
We stopped outside a strange house and Grandpa got out.
“Come on, Sonny. Lunch will be ready.”
He tried to put his key in the door, but it didn't fit.
A lady opened the door and asked him what he was doing. He said
“Who are you, and where's Flo?” Flo is my Nanna.
Then a man came out and started shouting at Grandpa. Grandpa told me to get back in the pickup.
I could hear them arguing and I was scared so I phoned Nanna on my mobile. I told her the name of the street we were on and what was happening.
It took her about ten minutes to arrive, but the Police were already there.
Dad had come with her and he took Grandpa back to his car while Nanna spoke to the policeman.
On the way home, she told me that Grandpa had gotten confused and gone to a house where they used to live. When I told her about him calling me Sonny she smiled and said that was what he used to call Dad, when he was my age.
It wasn’t long before he started forgetting other things. He would lose his pickup keys every other day, or would go to the store and be gone hours. Then he’d arrive home and complain about getting lost in some new traffic control system.
I’d go to their house until Dad finished work and Grandpa would help me with my homework. He was especially good at maths. This one day though, I was doing some multiplication and it was like he’d forgotten his times tables. I started to do them out loud but he shouted,
“Don’t tell me, dammit! I can do this.” Then he ran out of the room. He’d never shouted at me before. Nanna came running to see what was wrong. She followed him outside and talked to him, quietly. He was crying. My Grandpa never cried.
Even on his good days, he started saying weird things. One time he asked me if I would go to the mall with him to pick a Christmas present for Aunt Gloria. It was July and Aunt Gloria had died the previous year. By the time we got to the mall, he’d forgotten what we were there for so we had a burger instead. It was nice, but weird.
As he got worse, he began to forget my name. He called me Sonny more often.
Just before Christmas, Nanna got a phone call. Grandpa had crashed his pickup and was in the hospital. Dad drove us there. Grandpa wasn’t badly hurt. He even got my name right and mussed up my hair like he used to do when I hugged him.
The police were there again. They told Dad Grandpa had driven the wrong way down a one-way street. Grandpa said they must have changed the signs recently, but we all knew different. Grandpa didn’t drive after that.
There were a lot of things he stopped doing.
He couldn’t help me with my homework any more. We didn’t take my telescope out again. On windy days we didn’t fly my kite. And he stopped going fishing. He said his old fingers were no good at untangling knots in his line. Sometimes I had to help him with his shoelaces. Small buttons too.
“You’re a good lad, Sonny.” he would say.
I didn’t really mind being called Sonny. It was better than the day he didn’t even know me.
After school I went to their house. The papers were still in the mailbox at the end of the drive. I dropped my schoolbag and started pulling the letters out. Suddenly Grandpa ran out of the house, shouting and waving his fist. I looked behind me to see who he was angry with. There was no-one there. He snatched the mail out of my hand and started calling me a little thief. I was so scared. I thought he was going to hit me. Nanna saved me. She shouted at Grandpa “Nathaniel. Stop it. You’re frightening Tommy.” He looked at her, then back at me. He looked confused. He said “Sonny?” Then he started to cry. Nanna took him back in the house and told me to go into the lounge and start my homework. She told me later that he’d made a mistake because he wasn’t wearing his glasses but I didn’t believe her.
The last time I saw my Grandpa was the week after my tenth birthday. He was sitting on the porch swing with a cup of coffee. Nanna had bought him one with a cap on top because she said she was sick and tired of mopping up spilt drinks. It looked like a baby mug. I sat down on the rocker. I didn’t want to get too close, in case he was having what Nanna called a Bad Day. He looked at me and said.
I almost cried. He knew who I was and he remembered my name! Was he getting better?
“You know Grandpa Nate is not doing so good.” I thought it was weird that he talked about himself like he was someone else.
“I been fighting this thing for quite some time now, and I’m afraid I’m losing. While I’m still here, I just want you to know how much I love you.”
I jumped off the rocker and hugged him tight
“I love you too, Grandpa.” But, when I looked up at his face, he was gone. I never saw him again.
I thought a lot about what he said, about the thing he was fighting and began to figure it out, right back to that night with the meteor shower. Something had gotten into him and was taking him away from me.
I told Nanna but she just smiled and said Grandpa was just getting old. Dad got all serious and told me Grandpa had a disease. I didn’t believe that either. What sort of disease can turn a person into someone else?
So now it just sits in his chair, staring at nothing. Sometimes, when I talk to it, it looks at me, but it doesn’t see me. Nanna feeds it and cleans up after it and talks to it like it’s Grandpa. I don’t know why. Maybe she would just be too sad if she really knew.
She and Dad won’t believe me, or the nurse who comes to visit. She just flat out laughs.
I know you are in charge of the FBI and NASA and was kind of hoping you could send someone to investigate, like the X-files. I don’t care what anyone says. There’s something sitting in my Grandpa’s chair but it’s not my Grandpa. Please help me get him back. I miss him so much.
Yours, Thomas Nathaniel Kripke (Junior)